Aug 19 – Oct 14, 2012 | Red Bank, NJ
THE UNIVERSALITY OF FREEDOM
New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art presented “HEADS,” a public art exhibition featuring 50 large-scale paintings by Romanian artist, Dumitru Gorzo, from August 19 – October 14, 2012 in downtown Red Bank, New Jersey.
The paintings were installed on 9 exterior walls in this picturesque town along the Navesink River, an hour south of New York City by car or train. The exhibition effectively transformed Red Bank into an open museum portrait gallery. Through this serendipitous personal interaction with significant art of our time outside of traditional white museum walls, NJMoCA brought a new and thought-provoking cultural experience directly into the everyday lives of people exploring the town by foot, by car, or passing through by train.
Curated by the distinguished art historian and critic, Marek Bartelik, the series of 4 x 8 ft. paintings commissioned exclusively for this exhibition focused on expressive, allegorical, strange, satirical, and futuristic heads that explored portraiture with a nuanced observation of the individual spirit.
The concentration on heads grounded the work in a universal feature of humanity, with eyes being the proverbial window to the soul. Gorzo’s incorporation of varied styles and layers of abstraction illuminated the struggles resounding today for people throughout the world in a fight for human rights and freedom of expression.
The paintings united to create a vibrant tableau intended to draw in the viewer and stimulate conversation with imagery that alternated between fantasy and reality. Some heads were informed by classical antiquity, some by the bright colors and strong brushstrokes inherent in Expressionism, some reflections of the artist’s childhood memories in Romania, some eliciting angst, some adventurous —all of them evocative through the artist’s subjective interpretation for emotional effect.
The works were at once thoughtful, mischievous, deliberate, structural, radical, and exuberant. The colorful palette belied the artist’s serious challenge to provoke discourse about the universality of the human experience from both the art critics and the public at large, straddling a delicate tightrope between academic conceit and sentimentality to effect sanction from two disparate worlds of thought. In the setting of a public art exhibition, Gorzo achieved this demanding act with aplomb.
This was the first time in New Jersey that a landmark exhibition was museum-curated in a public setting outside museum gallery walls — a scholarly and provocative cultural experience that was free, open 24 hours a day, and accessible to everyone. Of special note, in an economic environment where arts in education is being slashed, a K-12 companion curriculum with suggested studio lessons was freely available for educators at public and private schools throughout the state to plan a compelling art field trip at their scheduling convenience.
“HEADS” was equally important in its timeliness in light of world events, as it was one of the last exhibitions in the United States to receive support from the Romanian Cultural Institute under an unrestricted administration. On June 13, 2012 newly elected Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta passed an emergency order that restructured the mission and management of the Romanian Cultural Institute and its 17 international branches. There had been an outcry heard around the world from thousands of Romanian artists and other cultural organizations like New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art who were affected by the diktat. Norman Manea, a prominent Jewish Romanian writer and literature professor at Bard College, suggested, “It would be disastrous if the brutal practices and the arrogance of past and present politicians came to nefariously guide the destiny of culture.”
The contemporary art world has taken a strong interest in emerging artists from Romania in recent years, and importance in the United States is building momentum. True to the mission of this young organization to foster emerging artists from an international curatorial field, New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art identified Dumitru Gorzo who has not had broad exposure outside of Romania and for whom this was the first museum exhibition in the United States.
Dumitru Gorzo was born in 1975 in Ieud, Romania. He received an advanced visual arts degree from the National University of Fine Arts in Bucharest. Gorzo’s methods of working have ranged from street prankster, to performance artist, to studio painter and sculptor—effectively evading any strict categorization. In 2006 he was the subject of a major solo exhibition at the Romanian National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest, which traveled to the Brukenthal Art Museum in Sibiu, Romania. The artist lives and works in Bucharest and New York.
Key volunteer support provided by: Ellen Martin | Brittni Rodriquez | Laura Petrovich-Cheney | Zachary Parness | Gerda Liebmann | Robert Langdon | Susan & Tom Berke | Elena Zazanis | Lauren McConnell | Dustin Molina | Amanda Stojanov | Linda Edwards | Andrea Rosenfeld | Kate Greenberg | Ilana Kaplan | Kathy Horgan | David Baker | Taylor Baker | Susan & Michael Hort | Megan & Michael Prenderville
Red Bank, New Jersey
Special thanks to Red Bank officials for their enthusiastic endorsement: Mayor Pasquale Menna | Nancy Adams and Margaret Mass of Red Bank RiverCenter | Red Bank Borough Council | Red Bank Special Events Committee